For the past several months I have been active on a parenting forum. I was drawn there for the strong Asperger/Autism community on that site but I have stayed around for the other conversations, on the other boards. I have had a really good time connecting with other parents over issues that are common to us all. I've realized that no matter where you live, everyone has the same challenges, worries and frustrations when it comes to parenting.
The conversations have been interesting and entertaining ... until a few days ago. Late last week I stumbled across a couple threads that nearly drove me around the bend. What I saw in thread after thread were parents who were afraid. They were afraid to upset their kids, to deny their kids something everyone else had and to put limits and expectations on their kids. They were hovering, worrying and creating panic in their lives over things that were no-brainers for our parents when we were kids.
For instance, this one mom posted this note/question about how worried she is for her child in the fall. She went on and on about how she doesn't know how she's going to manage to get him and his sister to school because they go to schools in opposite directions and she's not sure that her son will qualify for the bus. Turns out her kid is nine and the school is six blocks away. Then there's the single mom who is thinking of IVF treatments because she is worried about her daughter growing up as an only child and let's not forget about the many moms who think it is perfectly appropriate for their 10, 8 or 6 year olds to have cel phones. They say it’s a safety issue, so their kids can call from a friend's house or school anytime they feel the need to.
I know I have written/ranted about this topic before but I am still amazed and annoyed by what parents see as needs vs. wants. I hate how I sound like I'm 110 years old during these rants, but seriously, when I was a kid we played at the park, we rode our bikes and if we needed to call our parents we used the emergency quarter we kept in our pocket or asked to use the phone at the corner store. We had watches and check in times and our parents knew our friends. Most importantly we were the kids and they were the parents, they made decisions based on what was best for the whole family, not out of fear of 'upsetting' us.
I'm not sure how or why my generation went from being well rounded, active kids to being hypochondriac, obsessive, helicopter parents. When did we decide that measured independence, obedience and respect were bad for kids? When did we realize our childhood was traumatic because we were required think of others, understand our place in the world and be aware of our surroundings? When did we decide it was better to be friends with our kids than to parent them?
I'm not a perfect parent and I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, have it all figured out but the one thing I know for sure is that my kids need me. They need me to use my life experience, my big-picture view of our family, to guide and direct them. They need me to teach them boundaries, respect and independence. They need me to be the grown-up and let them be the kids. They need to hear 'no' and 'I love you' more than they need heaps of toys and gadgets. They need to know I have their best interests at heart and that I am okay if they don't like me in the moment if it means that they have learned a lesson that will stay with them for life. They need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am fiercely in love with them, will always be there for them and that I am their parent and I take that responsibility very, very seriously.
If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent. ~Bette Davis